In ancient Rome, the "mob" was more commonly known as the mobile vulgus and much as today its general purpose was to bully, intimidate, harass or isolate those individuals who had become the subject of their attention, whether that was a politician, a businessman, a work colleague, or even a social leader. Earlier still, the Greek philosopher, Diogenes, had recognised the potential power and the dangers posed by the "mob", when he noted that "the mob is the mother of tyrants", while the Greek historian, Herodotus, was reported to have said that "there is nothing more foolish, nothing more given to outrage, than a useless mob". Fast forward two thousand years, to one of the most chilling single episodes in human history and a Christian mob, incited by Nazi propagandists, visited a deathly pogrom against the Jews of Germany, which resulted in 91 people being killed, 30,000 being arrested and imprisoned, 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed and 1,000 synagogues being burned. Of course, this particular incident wasn't an isolated one, it had happened before and it has happened since, sometimes with deliberate and centralised incitement, sometimes without, but in either case, it illustrates just what lengths a mob can go to, once they lose control of themselves, or indeed one another.
Now, while no-one is suggesting that such outrageous and murderous acts could or would be committed today in a modern western society, at least not without the implicit permission of a ruling government party, it is perhaps worth reminding ourselves that even Britain has been the subject of regular breakdowns in our normally law abiding society, with large scale riots having taken place in 1910, 1919, 1936, 1958, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1987, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, with only good luck, rather than good judgement determining that there wasn't any large scale loss of life as a result of them.
Of course the causes of these numerous British riots have been many and varied, with perhaps underlying racial tensions and perceived or real discrimination being at the root of most; and for the most part there was probably no intention that anyone would get seriously hurt, no properties would be destroyed, or that matters would escalate so badly. Also, in most of these cases there was probably very little centralised planning or co-ordination about how the initial demonstration would evolve, how it would take on a life of its own, as it were, escalating from a public display of specific grievance, to an all out episode of lawlessness. Contrast that with the extreme case of the Nazi inspired Kristelnacht, where there was centrally orchestrated plot to agitate and motivate the mob into a deadly frenzy, ostensibly in pursuit of the party's policy to alienate and subjugate the resident German Jewish community.
The Oxford English dictionary defines a "mob" as "a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence", as for example a mob of protesters, or a group of people in the same place, or with something in common. Taking that quite literally, it would not therefore be unreasonable to assume that a crowd of people gathering in the same place, in a common cause, with a shared intention of causing trouble, or inciting violence, might quite easily be described as a "mob", not simply because they are publicly displaying their shared opposition to something or someone, but rather because their actual shared intent is to either cause trouble, or incite violence against the thing, or the person that they're opposed to. Depending on your interpretation of "trouble", then one might imagine that deliberately preventing a business, a political organisation, or even a legitimate political representative from going about their lawful business might be deemed to be "causing trouble", thereby making the demonstrators a "mob".
Increasingly it seems to be becoming an almost common event for organised groups of politically inspired demonstrators to use this particular tactic to not only stifle the sort of free speech that they don't personally agree with, but also to impinge on the lawful activities of those people that they oppose politically. Recent events in Rotherham, where UKIP leader Nigel Farage was virtually imprisoned in his party's campaign shop, apparently on the advice of the local police; and due entirely to the actions of a small mob, specifically designed for the job by a number of Labour Party affiliates, is just one of a growing number of instances where mob rule seems to be the norm. Even though the police would have been well within their rights to clear the protesters away from the shop, on the grounds that the demonstrators were causing an obvious obstruction, instead it seems they were more inclined to defer to the rights of the mob, than to the legal entitlement of a democratically elected political representative to open his party's new office. It clearly hadn't gone without notice that not only were two former Labour councillors amongst the mob besieging the office, but also a group called TUSC, whilst local Labour MP Sarah Champion thought it appropriate to accuse Mr Farage of "rubber necking" about the child sexual exploitation scandal that has engulfed the town.
Of course, this isn't the first time that Nigel Farage has been besieged by a baying mob, having previously been forced to retire to a public house in Edinburgh to escape the threats, the intimidation, the bullying tactics employed by his opponents. And like many of his political contemporaries he has been "egged", which seems to have become an almost common occurrence within British political life; and something that the police seem less likely to deal with as each individual incident occurs. However, when a physical assault is perpetrated against anyone it is bad enough, but for a campaigning politician to be attacked for no obvious reason, other than a personal difference of opinion over policy, then surely we have a serious problem to contend with. This isn't just mob rule designed to harass, intimidate or bully, but to actually incite violence against the person, which I'm sure most right thinking people would oppose under any circumstances. The attack, by protester Andrew Scott, although not serious, simply helps illustrate just how easily a mob mentality, when ignored, or even implicitly approved of by the police and other mainstream political parties can easily get out of hand with the potential for people to get seriously hurt. In this particular instance, it was a placard that was used in the assault, but how long one wonders before something far more lethal is used by a member of one of these mobs with the intention of simply putting their political point across or into their opponents?
It should be a matter of concern for everyone involved with our democracy that the minds of our "brightest and best", our young people, can so easily be corrupted by what purport to be legitimate political groupings, such as Hope Not Hate, or Unite Against Fascism, or any of those other organisations that are either funded by, or otherwise supported by the supposedly mainstream Labour Party and its Trade Unions paymasters. The fact that so many young people are being regularly influenced by or indoctrinated by the singularly warped views and policies of a small number of generally unknown, unaccountable and unrepresentative individuals, who use their positions to usurp our normal democratic practices and institutions should unsettle us all, regardless of our own personal political standpoint.
It is alarming to think that there is a small army of youthful dedicated political activists abroad in our country who not only pursue their leaders bidding in a generally single minded and unquestioning fashion, but that they also seem to think that bullying, intimidation and even silencing their opponents through violent acts, is an acceptable way to conduct political discourse. Unsurprisingly perhaps, at least one of the better known political activists, who holds no democratic mandate, or indeed elected public office, has freely admitted to the media that as she is not seeking election herself, then she feels perfectly entitled to lie about, shout down and generally damage her political opponent's reputation, without any fear of party or personal censure. Now, if she was a single disgruntled individual carrying out such actions then that is one thing, but where one individual becomes part of a co-ordinated and centralised strategy of political disruption, designed purely to suborn the entire democratic process, then perhaps we should all be concerned about that? After all, wasn't it exactly those sorts of undemocratic tactics that were commonly employed during the 1920's and 1930's in much of Western Europe and remember how that turned out?
There is something deeply worrying about any large scale un-elected and publicly unaccountable street movement that is not only being funded by government and the Trades Union movement, but also feels able to target those individuals, or political organisations that they alone deem to be unacceptable, even though the targets themselves are legitimately elected representative bodies or politicians. How would it be do you think if David Cameron, Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg was advised by the local police NOT to leave their campaign office, or NOT to walk down the street, or NOT to hold a local meeting, because a handful of generally unrepresentative protesters were making a nuisance of themselves? The obvious conclusion is of course that it wouldn't happen, simply because people wouldn't stand for the democratic process being usurped by a bunch of noisy demonstrators, who are fundamentally pursuing their own narrow political agenda. And yet where it wouldn't or couldn't happen for the Conservatives, Labour or the Liberal Democrats, it seems perfectly okay for it to happen not once, but twice for the same publicly elected UKIP representative, despite the fact that the party garnered over 4 million votes in the last European Elections, presently has 23 MEPs in the European Parliament and 2 MPs in our National Parliament.
Contrast UKIP's electoral standing, having chosen to put themselves forward at a public ballot, with the elected representation of United Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate or even the entire Trades Union movement. How many MPs or MEPs do UAF, HnH, or the TUC have? How many people in this country have actually voted for the UAF or HnH, or indeed what they stand for?
Even though such groups would claim that they have taken it upon themselves to confront the sorts of extremism that often exists within our society, whether that be in terms of a person's race, sexuality, ethnicity or religious beliefs, just who exactly asked them, or gave them permission to do so in the first place? It certainly wasn't the British electorate at large, as for the most part ordinary people probably wouldn't even be aware of them. And who exactly gives them licence to determine who or what should be targeted by their supporters, who is a fascist, or a racist, or an extremist? It certainly isn't the vast bulk of the general public. The truth is that groups such as the UAF, HnH and even parts of the TUC, especially those unions who fund the UAF and HnH directly or indirectly, are not legitimate democratic bodies, in the sense that they enjoy the widespread public support; and as such have no legitimate mandate for their actions.
Accepting that to be true, then one can only conclude that such groups were only ever created, maintained and funded for one particular purpose, that is to bring together groups of people with a common aim, of either causing trouble for, or inciting violence against a given opponent, which by any measure is a reasonable definition of a "mob". For anyone who believes that mob rule is the way forward for our "democracy", then please feel free to vote for the likes of the Labour Party, the Trades Union movement, or even for their affiliates like Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate, the Socialist Workers Party, or any one of the other progressive fringe groups who claim to act in your name, or in your interests, but please don't expect that they have any interests in pursuing an agenda that's best suited for the majority of the British populations, as they're far too busy pursuing their own!